Manchester United have started the second half of the Premier League campaign in the worst way possible, picking up only 1 out of possible 6 points from their last few games. With their title challenge dreams withering away, the Red Devils will be desperate to get back to winning ways against an unpredictable Southampton side at Old Trafford.
The Saints are also going through a dismal period, having lost their last 3 PL games. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side seems to have lost their lethal edge since the thrilling win over Liverpool in the FA Cup, but they must fix their goal-scoring issues and rediscover their swagger quickly to at least keep up with noisy neighbours Man City at the top of the table.
Manchester United Likely XI
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw, Fred, Pogba, Greenwood, Bruno, Rashford, Cavani
Scott McTominay suffered ‘stomach cramps’ against Arsenal & could miss this game.
Southampton Likely XI
McCarthy, Valery, Bednarek, Stephens, Bertrand, Redmond, Ward-Prowse, Armstrong, Djenepo, Adams, Ings
Southampton have 9 first-team players injured, with key stars Kyle Walker-Peters, Jannik Vestergaard, Oriol Romeu, Theo Walcott & Ibrahima Diallo all sidelined.
Manchester United vs Southampton Preview
United’s amazing win over Liverpool in the FA Cup was seen as a possible defining moment in their season, a victory that could’ve elevated them into improving their form. Quite the opposite has happened, with the Red Devils lacking that lethality they did a few weeks ago.
Fortunately, now they face an injury-ravaged Southampton side whose recent slump has been even worse off than them. The last time these two sides met, they played a thrilling contest in which United prevailed thanks to a last-gasp winner. This time, a 5-goal thriller is less likely.
For now, the Red Devils should be intent on at least scoring a couple of goals. Bruno Fernandes’ form has slumped after his heroics against LFC. But being the fighter he is, the Portuguese midfielder will be intent on improving his form & getting more involved in the game against Southampton.
He’ll look to target their defensive vulnerability with his clever movement in & around the penalty area & try to create chances through their defence. But not just Bruno, but Marcus Rashford also has a lot to do to redeem his recent disappointments.
The Englishman was recently the victim of racial abuse after a disappointment against Arsenal & he’ll be aiming to shut his doubters with a powerful performance. He should operate as a left-winger and with Southampton without a proper right-back, Marcus should be encouraged to make his dazzling forward runs & more important to improve his final product.
Being the only United forward capable of scoring right now, Edinson Cavani needs to start. His clever movement inside the area & predatorial instincts are almost like kryptonite for the Saints backline. He just needs to keep working hard & hope for better delivery to get back to scoring goals for United.
Mason Greenwood seems to have regained some confidence recently, but he’ll need to be more clinical with his finishing to really trouble the Saints. The Paul Pogba–Fred duo should be preferred again. Pogba should look to take up a more attacking role, where he looks to move the ball faster into the box, try to create chances or get goals himself.
Fred would look to recover possession with his defensive sturdiness, but he must be at his most agile state to stop Southampton fast-breaks. Despite having scored only 2 goals in their last 7 PL games, the Saints still boast a dangerous attacking line that can explode at any moment.
Danny Ings really doesn’t need many chances to score, Nathan Redmond & Moussa Djenepo are two tricky wingers well capable of causing chaos through the wings & Che Adams’ physicality can be hard to stifle.
Moreover, the Red Devils can’t afford to concede cheap free-kicks or corners knowing how dangerous ‘the best free-kick taker in the world’ (as per Pep Guardiola) James Ward-Prowse is with his delivery. After a solid defensive display vs Arsenal, Harry Maguire & co will be tasked to put in another hardworking, error-proof shift at the back to keep another clean sheet.
But with the Saints most likely to go defensive, the in-form Luke Shaw will be tasked to continue his thrilling forward runs into the box & keep delivering his pinpoint crosses into the box. United just need to shuffle up their attacking style, actually start converting their big chances & keep alert during their opponents’ thunderous counter-attacks to avoid dropping more points at home.
Because of how sloppy both sides have been in recent games, this could be a frustrating affair. I’m expecting a lot of counter-attacks, set-pieces and possibly missed chances too. However, I think United finally get things right & get a 2-1 win in this one.